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A Curious Incident

May 17, 2011

A glimpse inside autism, in Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. 


On my way to school I watch the cars going past the bus and remember their colours.

3 red cars in a row mean that it is going to be a Quite Good Day. 4 red cars mean that it is going to be a Good Day. 5 red cars mean that it is going to be a Super Good Day. And 4 yellow cars in a row mean that it is going to be a Black Day, which is a day when I don’t speak to anyone and don’t eat my lunch and Take No Risks, because yellow is the colour of custard and double yellow lines and Yellow Fever which is a deadly disease.”

This fictional story takes the reader on a unique journey narrated by fifteen-year-old Christopher Boone. The book is set into motion when Christopher stumbles upon his neighbor’s dead dog speared by a garden fork. He decides he will take it upon himself to solve the murder mystery. However, the focus of the story is less about who killed the dog, and rather about the way Christopher comes to uncover who is responsible. For Christopher is no ordinary detective; he faces the world with a higher-functioning form of autism known as Asperger’s Syndrome.

Christopher has a photographic memory. He understands maths. He understands science. What he can’t understand are other human beings.”

What develops is a humorous and heartwarming story about a boy who pushes past his world of safety, comfort and knowing to begin a terrifying journey beyond the end of his street, ultimately changing his life.

The brilliance of Haddon’s novel is the way it reflects an alternate way of discovering the world, from the eyes of a boy facing very different challenges than the norm. This ultimately affects the way Christopher comes to research the case, how he interprets the revealing information, and how this information is passed on to the reader. A definite must read.


So what is Asperger’s syndrome?


It was first described in 1944 by pediatrician Hans Asperger while observing four children displaying difficulties integrating socially. While their intelligence appeared normal, they faced challenges with nonverbal communication skills and failed to provide empathy with their peers, while a single interest often dominated their conversations.

Today it is classified as a developmental disorder characterized by:

– limited interests or preoccupation with a single subject resulting in exclusion of other activities

– repetitive or restrictive patterns of thoughts and behaviour

– overly formal manner of speech and language or taking figures of speech literally

– inability to interact successfully with peers

– difficulties with non-verbal communication

– and uncoordinated motor movements.

However, it important to remember that not all children fit these characteristics and that each case is uniquely individual.


And where do Speech-Language Pathologists come in?


Specialized speech and language therapy can be designed for each child who has troubles with the pragmatics of speech (such as turn-taking, eye contact, and staying on topic) that occur in normal conversation. Additionally, social skills training and teaching families strategies to help their child communicate more effectively are within their scope of practice. Although there are no single best therapy options, professionals agree that earlier intervention is ideal!

Referenced from: National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, National Institutes of Health, 2011.

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